Towards the End of the Morning , Michael Frayn
Olive Kitteridge *L, Elizabeth Strout.
The Scholarship Girl , Josephine Elder
Gone Away , Hazel Holt
Jane’s Parlour, O Douglas
The Gentle Art of Domesticity*L, Jane Brocket.
Drama at Silver Spires*L, Ann Bryant.
The Adventures of Margery Allingham *L, Julia Jones
The Beckoning Lady, Margery Allingham.
The Fashion in Shrouds, Margery Allingham
The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers *L, Paul Torday.
You’re a Brick, Angela! The Girls' Story 1839 - 1985, Mary Cadogan and Patricia Craig.
Taken by the Hand, O Douglas.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg.
Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye, M C Beaton.
I re-read two of O Douglas’s books last month. Jane’s Parlour is set between the Scottish borders and London and includes several familiar characters from other novels. Taken by the Hand is a slightly unbelievable fairy tale in which a quiet, old-fashioned girl finds happiness unexpectedly. These books are my top comfort reads at the moment and I’m currently re-reading Eliza for Common, about a girl growing up in a Glasgow manse.
I’ve often wondered what The Gentle Art of Domesticity was like and now I know.
My library had three books from Ann Bryant’s School Friends series about the modern boarding school Silver Spires. Each book has a different narrator and each agrees that Silver Spires is the best school in the world. The girls are tremendously supportive of each other but there’s always a Nasty Girl out to make trouble. The books might seem to belong to the classic school story tradition but I found them less convincing than the Trebizon series and I didn’t think much of that.
Drama at Silver Spires is narrated by Georgie. The plot hangs on whether or not she gets to play Amy in a school production based on Little Women. I quite enjoyed it. Rivalry at Silver Spires is the story of Grace, who has a sports scholarship and wants to excel at swimming. Then unpleasant messages about her start appearing in the Silver Spires chatroom. I found this less interesting, probably because it was about sport rather than drama. I abandoned it and didn’t bother reading the third book I’d borrowed.
After reading Julia Jones’ The Adventures of Margery Allingham I moved straight on to a re-read of The Beckoning Lady. I still maintain that it’s not as good as other Allinghams of the period. A very enjoyable read but the plot is opaque, to say the least and at the end I still wasn’t sure what had really happened. The Fashion in Shrouds, a much earlier book, is more reliable. Interesting that Julia Jones said in her biography that Pip’s role in helping with the books was to make things clearer.
I really enjoyed Paul Torday’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen but I found it hard to concentrate on The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers until I got into it. There have been many non-fiction accounts of the recent financial meltdown. THOLCS shows how just a few people were affected. No fears; if you don’t understand economics, in spite of or because of Robert Peston, it’s easy to follow the financial shenanigans in this story. Eck, the main character, is a retired army officer who takes a job with Bilbo, whom he knew at school. Bilbo runs a hedge fund and makes a lot of money. Eck, a good socialiser, signs up clients without ever really understanding how the business works. Charlie Summers is an unsuccessful conman, always on his uppers. His life becomes involved with Eck’s, with a very strange result. This is a slight novel but very enjoyable and reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith. It might have been called When you ain’t got nothin’, You got nothin’ to lose.
You’re a Brick, Angela!, Mary Cadogan and Patricia Craig. I skimmed through this hoping it might give me a clue for an impossible quiz I’ve been trying to do. No clues, just a reminder of how very much I dislike this snarky, didactic book. Nothing pleases the authors; even Ransome gets sniggered at for Titty’s name. If you’re interested in children’s books, far better to read something by a writer (Victor Watson, for example) who actually enjoys them and won't dismiss pony books because of an authorial objection to hunting or diss all your favourite authors.
I’ve enjoyed several books by Fannie Flagg, so I was pleased to pick up Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Whistle Stop is a small American town which only exists because of the railroad. In 1986 Mrs Threadgoode is in a retirement home and relives the past through chats with her visitor, Evelyn. We go from the twenties to the present, noting the social changes and the end of Whistle Stop as a community when the trains stop running. I didn’t enjoy this as much as the later books, particularly Standing in the Rainbow, but it is full of charm.
Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye, M C Beaton. I see I’ve missed at least one book in the series as Agatha is now running her own private detective agency. Sometimes a formulaic, easy to read book is what you need and I enjoy Agatha for that reason. I also like the way she never gives up on life.