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gertrude

May 2018

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December Books, Rather Late




Not surprisingly, moving house in December didn’t leave me much time for reading. I wanted to write about Tamsin, by Peter S Beagle, which was a Christmas present from huskyteer. She picked it because she’d enjoyed another book by the same author. I’d wanted to try it because Geranium Cat recommended it. Another incentive was that most of the book is set in Dorset, where I live. It’s not what I’d usually read because I’d take one look at it, think ‘fantasy!’ and reject it out of hand. This, though, is a genuine ghost story.

The book opens in New York, where bratty, essentially urban Jenny lives with her divorced mother and Mister Cat. It’s written in the first person, by an older Jenny who is unsparing of her younger, selfish self. Mother falls in love with an Englishman and Jenny is transported, almost literally kicking and screaming, to an old house in rural Dorset. From the start the whole family (two new stepbrothers as well as a stepfather) sense a strangeness about the house. Jenny, probably because of her age and her own unhappiness, meets Tamsin, a girl from the 17th century who has become ‘stuck’, unable to leave her old home. The reader immediately senses the dangerousness of the relationship and rushes through the rest of the book to find out what happens.

I have a few quibbles about the book. You don’t drive through Southampton when travelling from London to Dorset; Yeovil is not in Dorset; there is no university at Dorchester. The strange beings Jenny meets, in the tiresome manner of such creatures, always address Jenny by her full name, Jenny Gluckstein, which I find madly irritating. The ending is not quite as frightening as it should be. Nevertheless, I could hardly put the book down until I’d finished it.

I re-read A Village Affair, by Joanna Trollope because I’d watched the TV dramatisation. I liked it less than the first time I read it. I’ve pretty much given up on Joanna Trollope since Marrying the Mistress and I still think Other People’s Children is her best book.
Star Gazing, by Linda Gillard I liked a lot for its insights into the life of a blind woman. I couldn’t feel, though, that either of the loves of her life was quite worthy of her.
No Cure for Death, a Sheila Malory mystery by Hazel Holt, was reliably enjoyable.
Laurie Graham has been a discovery this year for the strangeness (to me) of her stories and I liked The Importance of Being Kennedy. It’s written in the first person by the Kennedy children’s Irish nurse and the story is mainly about Kathleen. The supporting cast of the entire Kennedy clan is believably described.
Cookie, the latest from Jacqueline Wilson, was a very speedy read, as all her books are. This heroine is plain and plump, has a bullying father, a bimbo but loving mother and an obsession with rabbits which innocently causes family breakdown. As usual with Wilson, the frightening aspects of a child’s life are tempered by at least one sane adult on the scene and the book ends on a hopeful note.

Comments

STAR GAZING

I was glad to see you enjoyed STAR GAZING. (I'm the author.) I was also amused to read your comment about Marianne's unworthy partners. Of how many women could this be said, I wonder?

Most?

;-)

Re: STAR GAZING

Hello! I had no idea you were on LJ. Congratulations on a beautiful book which should have more publicity. I liked Marianne's sister a lot, and the ex-Goth.

Most?
Ha ha! True for you.
I started Tamsin this morning!
Hope I haven't put you off!
I think seven is rather young for the content but your niece wouldn't come to much harm from it. Books I'd think much too old for her (and your daughter) include Diamond Girls, Kiss, My Sister Jodie and the Girls series. The Illustrated Mum, one of Wilson's best, is rather frightening.

The problem with JW is that she's marketed as a brand with distinctive cover style and illustrations, so it can be hard to tell that some books are intended for older readers.
I can't resist a ghost novel. I've ordered myself a copy.
I think you'll like it!
It arrived earlier this morning, and I've just started it.

(Anonymous)

December Books

I was about to say that I, too, love Linda G's Star Gazing and then saw she had left a comment but praise it I will, again and again! And a friend called and told me she enjoyed Star Gazing so much she bought several copies to give away as Christmas presents!
Glad you enjoyed Hazel Holt's novel ... they're always so readable and Mrs Marlory is such a better character than the dire Agatha Raison (M C Beaton.)
Yes, I agree, J Trollope's best was Marrying the Mistress. I simply could not finish her last two books. I could not emphaize with any of the characters.
Margaret Powling

Re: December Books

Star Gazing is very unusual.
I've never been tempted by Agatha Raisin but the books are popular.
Glad you mostly enjoyed Tamsin. I was very amused by the University of Dorchester, I couldn't quite think where it would be!
I found it quite a gripping read and have recommended it to a couple of people who are likely to enjoy the Dorset setting.
How amused would you be by the Bournemouth University? There is one, believe it or not.