Our Street, East End Life in the Second World War, Gilda O’Neill
The Return of Hyman Kaplan, Leo Rosten
The Importance of Being Seven, Alexander McCall Smith
Brother and Sister, Joanna Trollope
Perfume, Patrick Suskind
The Way Things Are, E M Delafield
Blaming, Elizabeth Taylor
The Cazalet Chronicles, Elizabeth Jane Howard
Eden Close, Anita Shreve
Murder at the Museum, Simon Brett
After Julius, Elizabeth Jane Howard
I really enjoyed Gilda O’Neill’s My East End, about her childhood in the early 1950s. There she was writing from her own experience but for Our Street she’s had to rely on what others told her, which I find makes the book less successful. Not that I want to knock the oral history of so-called ‘ordinary people’, but once you’ve read one account of being bombed out of your home, you’ve read them all, really. For me, the most interesting parts of the book are the chapters on how people managed to feed and dress themselves when everything was rationed and had to be queued for. The book is neither straight history nor autobiography, although the numerous first hand accounts do bring the people of the time to life and remind one that for many, this is still living memory. I see that Living through the Blitz by Tom Harrisson of Mass-Observation has been reissued and you might as well read that.
As previously reported, I found a forgotten copy of The Return of Hyman Kaplan by Leo Rosten. Not quite as funny as The Education of Hyman Kaplan but still a pleasure to read. As was The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith, the latest chronicle of Scotland Street. I tried not to read it too quickly but couldn’t stop myself. Oh, Bertie!
In Brother and Sister, Joanna Trollope explores the problems which can arise when adopted children (the brother and sister of the title), decide to trace their birth parents. Heartache all round. Plenty more heartache in Eden Close by Anita Shreve. I had a problem with the title, because to me Eden Close sounds more like an address than a girl’s name. It’s one of those back to front mysteries where you know from the start the terrible thing that’s happened and then find out how and why. My first Anita Shreve and I was interested enough to finish the book but not over-impressed.
Only one detective novel, Murder at the Museum, one of Simon Brett’s Fethering mysteries. As soon as I started it I realised I’d read it before but as it’s one of the better ones I carried on. Jude and Carole investigate the links between a long-buried skeleton and a recent murder. Just after my Cazalet fest I picked up Elizabeth Jane Howard’s After Julius at the market. Several intertwined love stories in one family make for complications. Julius is dead before the story starts and at first seems a mere cipher. It’s only about two thirds of the way through the book that you get an idea of what he was really like and the effects his death has had. Enjoyable, sad and reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor, whom EJH admired.