Miss Bun the Baker’s Daughter , D E Stevenson
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, Sinclair McKay
Love, Nina , Nina Stibbe
Bluestockings , Jane Robinson
The Cruellest Month, Hazel Holt
Olivier, Philip Ziegler
The Garden Plot, Marty Wingate
The Pure Gold Baby , Margaret Drabble
The Silent Tide , Rachel Hore
To Love and be Wise, Josephine Tey
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park was absolutely fascinating. What struck me most, apart from the important work people did there, was the way secrecy became so much second nature to them. There were sad cases cited of people whose parents died before they could be told what their sons or daughters had done in the war. By coincidence, just after finishing it I saw one of Michael Portillo’s railway programmes, in which he visited Bletchley and spoke to an elderly woman who had worked there. It was clear she still didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.
In The Cruellest Month, Sheila Malory is working in Oxford for a while. Naturally, when a murder occurs, she happens to know some of the people involved. Poor Mrs Malory, I can’t think of another book in which she personally suffers a great blow to her self esteem. I prefer the later books, I think, and I always prefer her to be at home in Taviscombe. Josephine Tey’s Inspector Grant mysteries are, er, just OK for me. Somehow Grant, while sharing many of the qualities of Alleyn, Campion et al. just doesn’t have the same appeal. The plots are very ingenious, though. I read each of these books in an evening; not very taxing.
Philip Ziegler is a very experienced biographer and you can be sure that his work will be thoroughly researched, fair, and as accurate as he can make it. Although I enjoyed reading his biography of Olivier (I could stand to read quite a lot about him) I didn’t feel I learned anything new. Michael Blakemore’s book is far more interesting about the early years of the National Theatre.
I must mention The Garden Plot although it won’t be out until May. A mystery combining gardening and a murder. What more could you ask?
I’ve just started The Goldfinch. Very impressed so far but it’s not an ideal book to read when you’re stuck on your own in filthy weather. I may look for something more comforting and then go back to it.
Edit: I was wrong about The Goldfinch, I can't stop reading it!