At the start of this year I decided my goal would be to read the books I already own and to rein back on new acquisitions. I’t’s not a book ban by any stretch of the imagination – I know that would be impossible for me since the minute I declared such a ban I’d be itching to get to the bookshop. It’s more of a restraint on buying/acquiring. And I’ve astonished myself by just how restrained I’ve been. Until this week that is. Four new books have mysteriously made their way into my home. I can’t imagine how they got there – perhaps the book fairies placed them there when I was asleep??
These are the four new acquisitions which are now in the pile I categorise as “waiting for a space in the shelves”.
Our nearest Tesco supermarket recently introduced a book donation shelf so of course I had to take a peek when I was in the store. Mostly the donated items were the usual crime fiction/romance/thriller titles but oh joy, there was a Virago Modern Classic in amongst them. I’d never heard of Maura Laverty but for the price of a donation to charity it was mine. I’ve since discovered she was an Irish author writing in in the early 1940s but whose first four novels (of which Never No More is the first) were banned in Ireland until the 1960s.
Flush with this success I called in at a second hand bookshop in Cardiff with a mind to buy some of the Virago Modern Classics I’d seen on my last visit. There wasn’t much of interest this time around though. But in browsing the shelves my eye was drawn to the familiar grey colour of one spine; sure enough this was a Persephone edition in excellent condition. I’ve never come across a Persephone in any second hand store before now so of course I had to have it, even more so because it was by Dorothy Whipple, an author who comes highly recommended by Ali at HeavenAli but whom I’ve never read. They Knew Mr Knight, Whipple’s second novel, is the story of a family who encounter and fall foul of a crooked financier.
After that moment of excitement I just had to celebrate with a visit to a coffee shop that just happens to be a bookcrossing zone.And they just happened to have Lewis Man by Peter May, an author I’ve heard about via Cleopatra at Cleopatralovesbooks. I took it home in the belief this was the first title in his crime fiction trilogy set on the remote Isle of Lewis in Scotland that features a former policeman who has returned to the island of his birth. Turns out I was wrong and The Lewis Man is book number 2. So now I have to hope the library can furnish me with book number 1 The Blackhouse.
And finally, a few years ago I read Alex by Pierre LeMaitre which was a fast-paced, superbly written novel about a girl’s abduction. The beginning was so horrifying that I didn’t think I could continue reading but I did and it turned out to be a riveting story about revenge. So taken was I with LeMaitre that I planned to read more from him so when his publishers ran a giveaway recently of course I could not resist. Which is how I come to be the new owner of his latest novel Three Days and Life which will be published in July. It begins in 1999, in a small provincial town of Beauval, France, where a twelve-year-old boy called Antoine Courtin accidentally kills a young neighbor girl in the woods near his home. He conceals the body and to his relief- is never suspected of any connection to her disappearance. More than a decade later Antoine, now a doctor, moves back to Beauval and discovers there was a witness to his crime, a person who has the power to destroy his life. Based on what I experienced with Alex, I’m sure this is going to be a dramatic psychological thriller.
And now I have to pull in those reins again otherwise all the progress I’ve made on reading through my personal library will be undone.
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.