Sober as a Judge, Henry Cecil
The Warrielaw Jewel , Winifred Peck
Keeping Secrets, Sue Gee
The Woman who Walked in Sunshine , Alexander McCall Smith
The Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan
A Secret Garden , Katie Fforde
The Second Bride , Katharine Swartz
The Murder at Sissingham Hall, Clara Benson
With the Sun in my Eyes, Beverley Nichols
Currently reading: The Lark, E Nesbit
I’ve already rubbished Sober as a Judge in my January roundup. It really is very dull indeed.
I was looking forward to reading Sue Gee’s Keeping Secrets after enjoying Trio so much. What a disappointment. I’d say it was too, too Hampstead, if the characters lived there. Self sufficient, ‘my life is completely under control’ Hilda foolishly has an affair with Stephen, a married man. (I know I’m rather unforgiving about these things.) Her sister Alice, fragile but happy with her two children, is unsettled by Hilda’s pregnancy. Meanwhile in Norfolk, Stephen’s wife Miriam is drinking. What a load of misery. It’s all about selfishness, about givers and takers in life. The selfish ones take what they think they want without enough thought for the consequences. The nicest characters just keep on giving, way beyond the call of duty. I wrote at the time that I’d be glad to finish it and read something cheerful. I believe the book is out of print and I’m not surprised. Not that it’s a bad book; it’s well written. Just so miserable.
How about a jolly book by Jenny Colgan? In Little Beach Street Bakery Polly follows the path of many a fictional romantic heroine in recent years. A relationship breaks up, she now has no money, so she sets off for one of the most remote corners of the British Isles (in this case an isolated Cornish village), to start a new life. As if by magic, in no time at all she knows everyone there, has two handsome male admirers and has started her own artisan bakery. Phew. I have to say I found the details of Polly’s baking far more interesting and convincing than those of Lucien in A Secret Garden. It would be a little dull without a couple of outrageous characters: her improbably named friend Kerensa and Reuben, an American billionaire who is at the same time an egomaniac and a fairy godfather. Quite fun taken with a pinch of salt (so necessary in bread making).
I re-read The Murder at Sissingham Hall (see post about Angela Marchmont mysteries) because I couldn’t remember anything about it. I enjoyed it, but goodness, the narrator is a prize chump who deserves little sympathy.
With the Sun in my Eyes (1968) must be one of Beverley Nichols’ worst books. It’s subtitled ‘How not to go round the world’ and you’d think that travelling round (parts of ) the world with an old friend would provide enough material for a book. Not at all. Like all Nichols’ books, it requires a great deal of padding with name dropping, ancient anecdotes about Noel Coward, Dame Nellie Melba et al which have been heard before and digs at popular taste and culture, in particular The Beatles and ‘pop singers’. Even travelling, sometime in luxury, sometimes in really unpleasant conditions, the author manages to write a book about music, cats and flowers. And yet … such is his appalling skill as a writer that the book is horribly readable. I made a note while reading that this was ‘an old man’s book’, only to realise to my horror that he must have been about the age I am now when he wrote it. You might not guess from this that I’m rather a fan.
I’m now reading The Lark and loving it.