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What I read in June (Part 2)

I am posting three book reviews here.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

In my previous post I mentioned that a number of books (all published before about 1958) featured in The Librarian by Salley Vickers. Tom’s Midnight Garden was one of them. I first read it when my children were at primary school. The copy I read then has not left our house! I couldn’t remember anything about it, when I began to reread it. A few parts were vaguely familiar later on. (I do find that reviewing books helps me remember more about them than if I just turned to the next book and read it without giving a further thought to the latest one.) It is a very imaginative book. The story jumps about rather than having a linear timeline for the night-time. The daytime has a more usual timeline. The reason for this becomes clear towards the end of the story. Perhaps it was too complicated a story for me to remember it after a single reading.

(I remembered reading another title by Philippa Pearce as a pre-teen – A Dog so Small. It has a simpler plot.) This time I read Tom’s Midnight Garden from cover to cover in a day, becoming completely engrossed in the story.

Ash Princess: In a land without a queen, the princess must rise by Laura Sebastian

This book was on a display with other teenage titles at the library. It is the first of a trilogy. The book is about an oppressive regime and has a lot of violence in it. Part 2 is Lady Smoke, which was published earlier this year. I shall be looking out for it as I am interested in how the story develops.

Three things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon

This was a library book I borrowed when I returned Ash Princess. By the end of the day I had finished reading it! It is a fascinating book with similarities to the earlier book by Joanna Cannon, which I reviewed. The similarities lie in a mystery from the past being unravelled. The characters and the way the story is told are rather different. If you enjoyed The trouble with goats and sheep, you should enjoy this. Another book with a similar “flavour” is Elizabeth is missing. I realised that I spend too much time on social media, when some of the sentences in Three things about Elsie jumped out at me and I thought how Tweetable they would be!

 

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What I read in June 2019 (Part 1) The Librarian

I borrowed a hardback copy of The Librarian by Salley Vickers from the library on a recent trip to the city for a meeting of a writing group. I had been looking out for it as I have enjoyed other novels by this author.

Spoiler alert! Please skip the 2 paragraphs following this if you are like me and do not want to know much about a book before reading it. It took me a few days to read as I was busy with other things.

It is mainly a historical novel, being set in the 20th century! I hadn’t expected the librarian to be a children’s librarian. I still reread children’s books (or read them for the first time). In this story some of the books borrowed from the library affected subsequent events.

I was surprised when, towards the end of the book, I turned a page and found Part Two. This part is about how the lives of some of the children in Part One turned out. In particular two of them now over 70 years old, who had been good friends and then lost touch, compared their memories. They looked back on the events of their childhood with their adult understanding.

End of Spoiler! Salley Vickers has once more demonstrated her understanding of human nature.

There is a list at the end of the book of her recommended reading from the children’s library in the book. Some of the titles are new to me, but many are books I read as a child and have reread as an adult. I am going to reread Tom’s Midnight Garden, which I did not read until I had children of my own. It had particular significance in The Librarian and I can’t remember it at all!

Other readers of The Librarian may also wish to do some background reading.

 

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What I read in May 2019 (Part 4)

Due to Bank holidays and being a bit under the weather at times, I read and enjoyed another two books in May.

The first was Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster. This is a historical novel about the life of a maid to Elizabeth Barrett (later Browning). It covers most of the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and some time after her death. According to the list of works by Margaret Forster at the beginning of this library book, she also wrote a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and edited a book of her poetry. (She had done her research!)

Lady’s Maid includes some narrative, which paints a picture of what it was like to live in the days of travel by stagecoach. The historical background is also seamlessly woven into the story. I have enjoyed other books by Margaret Forster, but this one is a masterpiece. Reading over 500 pages was a pleasure.

 

The second book I read was The Wrong Messiah: The real story of Jesus of Nazareth by Nick Page. My reason for reading this book was that the author was one of the speakers on a writers’ weekend I was about to attend. I wanted to be aware of his writing style beforehand. This book is extremely well-researched. It includes maps, diagrams and photographs. The material is arranged geographically with most chapters named after a town or region. In spite of being backed up by 22 pages of notes and 8 pages of bibliography this book is extremely readable. Many traditions, which have come into being in the last 2000 years, are questioned and an alternative (convincing) view put forward. The Biblical accounts have been considered as a whole, resulting in a unified timeline for Jesus’ life. I recommend this book very highly.

As it happened I did not have an opportunity for any conversation with the author, but enjoyed listening to him speak. The exercises he set were both challenging and fun.