Both the books reviewed in this post were BorrowBox books, which I read on my phone.
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
I chose this book because I also have experience of working in a bookshop. During the timespan covered in the diary, every day The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland was open the author recorded the online orders and whether they were fulfilled, the till takings and a report of customers, staff and their idiosyncracies. His dry sense of humour and discussion of the state of the second-hand book trade in the twenty-teens make this an informative and entertaining book. His fishing trips and preparations for the Wigtown Book Festival as well as visits to people’s houses to buy books, add variety. I enjoyed it.
The Muse by Jessie Burton is a bestseller. The first part was so authentic that I wondered whether it was memoir rather than fiction. One disadvantage of reading on BorrowBox is that I have not found a way of flipping to the end to check the author’s notes and other appendices. This is a historical novel set in the 1960s and 1930s. Some of the scenes described are disturbing. The whole novel is well-researched, extremely well-written and absorbing. There are hints about the provenance of one of the characters, which I was pleased to have noticed and guessed correctly. Works of art (and one in particular) form a thread linking the two historical periods. I shall be looking out for Jessie Burton’s earlier novel, The Miniaturist.
The Senator’s Darkest Days by Joan E Histon is a historical novel set in the first century CE, as we now are expected to call it. (I prefer AD.) It was published earlier this year by Top Hat Books and is available as a paperback or an e-book.
It is an exciting story with lots of action, travel, interesting characters, intrigue, fighting, romance, religion*, family life and a well-researched historical background. I read it from cover to cover the day I started reading it.
This book was sent to me by the author, who is a member of the writing group I attend. My only criticism is that the first few chapters have not been edited to the same high standard as the rest of the book. I am glad that I did not let that deter me from reading to the end.
Although this is the third book in a series, it is self-contained and does not require knowledge of the earlier books (which I have not read). Where incidents from the other books have a bearing on the story, this is explained unobtrusively.
I enjoyed it.
* At the time there were various religions and faiths – many Roman gods, Judaism and Christianity form the background to the story.
I bought The widow’s secret by Katharine Swartz from a local bookshop, which is currently opening in the mornings only.
I have read and reviewed the previous three books in the series, The Tales of Goswell. Two characters from earlier in the series appear in this book, which may be read as a stand-alone novel. The widow’s secret continues with the same structure – two linked stories set in different centuries but similar locations told in alternate chapters. The stories are gripping. I finished reading this book the day after I began. The subject matter is not for those of a squeamish disposition, but tackles important matters of human relationships, exploitation and more.
Living in the area in which the stories are set (and having known the author when she also lived here) added to the interest of the book for me. I hope other readers will be encouraged to visit some of the places mentioned once travel becomes easier after the pandemic. The Beacon Museum and The Rum Story are worth visiting, but are currently closed.
My reviews of Katharine Swartz’s earlier books may be found here.
Book reviews A-M has the rest of the book reviews I have written.