Dreams of the Good Life: The life of Flora Thompson and the creation of Lark Rise to Candleford, Richard Mabey
Murder Most Unladylike , Robin Stevens
Touch Not the Cat, Mary Stewart
Wilfred and Eileen , Jonathan Smith
Jill on the Land , Phyllis Matthewman
Timber Girl , Phyllis Matthewman
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend
All Change , Elizabeth Jane Howard
Into the Whirlwind , Eugenia Ginzburg
When We Were Bad, Charlotte Mendelson
I got the impression that Mabey regretted agreeing to write his book about Flora Thompson. She is so elusive that it’s hard to find anything new to say about her. This book is not really a biography but an attempt to root her writing in the landscape, something he’s good at. If you want to know more about Flora’s life, read Flora Thompson by Gillian Lindsay, 1990. I found that my very old book club edition of Lark Rise to Candleford (which I had to rout out, of course), is the one illustrated by Julie Neild. Her name meant nothing to me when I first read the book years ago. Now I think of her primarily as the illustrator of M Pardoe’s Bunkle books .
Touch Not the Cat is one of Mary Stewart’s best books: a nice touch of menace mixed up with the supernatural and villainy. I think the heroine is far too forgiving of her cousins. I also disliked the way she called her ‘mind partner’ ‘Lover’ in her head and when she wanted to make contact. I kept hearing a Devon voice saying, ‘Hello, my lover’.
I had to read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole yet again when Sue Townsend died, and loved it as much as ever. I have all the books but this first one on the Kindle as well, one of my safe reads.
‘The Rubin family, everyone agrees, seems doomed to happiness’. Aha! What a brilliant opening sentence for Charlotte Mendelson’s book, because the Rubins are just about as dysfunctional a family as you could find. I’d heard a lot about this book so bought it when it was a 99p Kindle deal a while ago. I’ve only just got around to reading it. The story is set in North London, where Claudia Rubin (beautiful, successful) is rabbi of a liberal synagogue. While pursuing her career and managing to appear practically perfect in every way, she has trapped her husband and children by her controlling ways and made it almost impossible for them to escape the loving cage she’s built for them. Anything unpleasant is ignored and problems are never discussed. Claudia hasn’t even noticed that her younger son is a psychotic monster; in fact, she dotes on him. As the book progresses, the narrative jumping between characters, we see the gradual disintegration of the family unit, parallelled by the state of their crumbling house. I quite enjoyed the book but couldn’t find a single sympathetic character in it. I was also disappointed by the inconclusive ending, as I’d like to have seen a couple of the characters get their comeuppance.
I’ve moved on now to something light and frothy by Carola Dunn. Miss Jacobson’s Journey (first book in The Rothschild Trilogy) is rather surprising. Does anyone know of another Regency romance with a Jewish heroine? Great fun so far.