I haven't had time to write many proper reviews this month but I have read a few books.
The Clothes on Their Backs, Linda Grant
Home for the Wedding, Elizabeth Cadell. She lived from 1903 – 1989, so was in her late sixties when this book was published in 1971. I suspected that, because it reads more like 1951 than 1971. Like D E Stevenson, the author is loved by many people as a writer of the superior type of romantic fiction. Possibly her earlier books are better; this one is straight out of The People’s Friend.
The Only Good Lawyer, Hazel Holt. An example of the perils of reading series books out of order. In the first books I read, Sheila Malory is a grandmother. In this one (1997), her son is still living at home with her. She’s a character I’m getting fond of.
Still Here, Linda Grant
Death Under the Drier, Simon Brett. Another Fetheringham novel.
Pond Lane and Paris, Susie Vereker. Entertaining, especially the French woman you love to hate.
Summertime, Raffaella Barker
Hens Dancing, Raffaella Barker. Lovely but I think Summertime is even better.
No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club, Virginia Ironside
A few chuckles, a few ‘How very true’s but on the whole I found this at the same time depressing and smug. Depressing? Perhaps it was the aggressive atheism and the ending. Smug? The narrator borrows from the Daily Mail the acronym SWELLS: Sixty, Well Off, Enjoying Life, which sums up her and her friends. My sympathy is with the SPAMS (my acronym): Sixty, Poor And Miserable. I’d rather read about Sheila Malory (a Swell but rather a gracious one) than about an oldie who’s never got over the sixties.
The House at Riverton, Kate Morton. What a tease: we are kept waiting to the very end of the book for the scene which will reveal the mystery surrounding the death of a WWI poet in 1924. The narrator is Grace, 98, who started work at Riverton as a housemaid when she was fourteen. Her memories gradually reveal the secrets which have been so well kept, about her own life as well as the lives of her former employers. I don’t want to be too unkind about this book, as I was interested enough to finish it and I never reached the end of Still Here, which is brilliantly written. I have to say though that it’s full of anachronisms; the research into country house life seems based on viewings of old episodes of Upstairs Downstairs although there is a lengthy reading list at the end of the book. It is also badly written and edited: ‘cowered’ for ‘cowed’, ‘presumptive’ for ‘presumptuous’; people constantly inhaling or exhaling, rather than breathing in and out like normal folk. Oh dear, I could give many more examples; nor was I convinced by Grace’s transformation from housemaid to archaeologist.
Opening Night, Ngaio Marsh. I was surprised to find a Ngaio Marsh book I hadn’t read. Aspiring young New Zealand actress Martyn is penniless in London. She walks into a theatre, gets taken on as a dresser and steps into a role in a new play. Then the murders start. The London theatre background is familiar from Marsh’s other books and it’s more than half way through the book before Alleyn and Fox arrive and things get more interesting. Vintage Murder is a much better theatre thriller. I think I’ll get rid of all Ngaio Marsh’s books except early ones like Overture to Death and Death in White Tie. Next up, I have a new Miss Silver novel to read: good!