Two e-books I read in February 2021

I found these two books on Borrowbox. They are both fiction intended to be read by adults.

Book coverThe Weaver’s Daughter by Sarah E. Ladd is a historical novel. It is described as a Regency romance novel. The genres it falls into include Christian Fiction although the Christian element is only shown in a few church services and the character of the eponymous heroine. During the industrial revolution people employed in cottage industries connected to the textile trade were likely to be put out of work by increasing mechanisation in the large textile mills. This novel is set in a precise historical time with soldiers returning from the war in Spain. It is a good story with lots of excitement and a theme of reconciliation. It left me wanting to learn more about the Luddites and the history of Yorkshire.

The Last Family in England by Matt Haig (Paperback ISBN 9781786893222) book coverThe Last Family in England by Matt Haig is described as comedy. To me it was more like tragedy or irony. I enjoyed it less than other books I have read by Matt Haig. The pet Labrador narrates the story of the family he is pledged to protect at all costs. He learns the truth about all the events, which occur  – some of them surprising. His interventions do some good, but at what personal (or rather doggy) cost? Humour is not universal. What makes one person laugh does not necessarily amuse another. It was an interesting, haunting story.

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Fable paint chip prompt

This week Linda Kruschke’s paint chip poetry prompt is particularly challenging.

Your challenge, if you’re up to it, is to write an original fable in verse. I’ll accept prose, if you must, but verse is so much more fun and challenging. In keeping with fable tradition, your poem should involve at least two animals and should illustrate a moral principle important to you. Maybe you want to show that lying is bad or that working industriously will yield good results.

The paint chip words and phrases that you have to work with for your fable are ghost, pins and needles, parchment, gauze, whirlpool, relish, and dawn. I’d like you to use at least four of the chips.

The Hole Story

A mouse, a stoat and a fox
Needed somewhere to live.
Said the fox, ‘A cardboard box
‘Would do for me. I don’t give
‘A fig for fine houses’.

The stoat would prefer a boat,
But the mouse wanted a house.
The stoat would stay afloat.
He doubted a whirlpool would douse
Any floating houses.

The three animals set out
Together on their quest.
From dawn they looked about
Searching their very best
For future houses.

The fox was first to be fixed –
A large cardboard box found
By the mouse in woodland (mixed)
Gave much space to run to ground
Far from fine houses.

The stoat and mouse continued
To search beside a stream.
Spiders’ webs of gauze imbued
The suspicion of a dream
Of finding houses.

The mouse spotted the boat first.
The stoat began to gloat.
‘It seems you have come off worst!’
He clambered in. ‘Off I float –
‘Boats are good houses!’

The mouse was left all alone,
‘Til a hedgehog came past.
Pins-and-Needles said, ‘Don’t moan!
‘Troubles hardly ever last.
‘Who needs fine houses?’

The poor mouse scurried back home.
He saw the boat capsized,
And the cardboard box home
Had collapsed. He realised
They weren’t fine houses.

Before they began their quest
All the animals resided
In holes in the ground. Guest
Suites were not provided
In lowly houses!

The hedgehog’s philosophy
That things should be relished
Helped the mouse, fox and stoat see
Their old homes should be cherished.
Who needs fine houses?

The moral is not that it is wrong to live in fine houses, but that it is good to be thankful for what we have. As for gloating – perhaps pride comes before a fall.

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Two more books I read in January 2021

The two novels I am reviewing here, Peter Abelard by Helen Waddell and the diary of Isabella M Smugge by Ruth Leigh, are opposites in many ways. Both are physical books. One is an old historical novel and the other a pre-publication copy of a contemporary novel.

A bookmark and two booksPeter Abelard was a book I inherited. I had not read it before. In fact, I vaguely remember choosing it off the shelf as a teenager and being told, ‘You don’t want to read that. Try this one instead.’ The replacement book may have been The Tiger in the Smoke reviewed here.

There is no character list for Peter Abelard, although I suspect that had it been published now rather than in 1933 (the edition I read was reprinted in 1950) such a list might well have been provided. The reader is rather thrown into the story at the deep end. It is set in France in the 12th century. There are some very vivid descriptions, while other things are only hinted at. The Christian beliefs of the time are very important in the story. There are quotations from earlier scholars including Augustine and Origen. The book is well-researched. There are phrases from familiar passages in the Bible, notably Psalm 139. Beliefs about morality at that time were very different from those of the present day. It is not a light read due to the language and the scholarly content, which includes quotes in old French and Latin. These are mostly translated afterwards, but the reader has to recognise or infer this. I found it very interesting.

I first met Isabella M Smugge (pronounced like Bruges) in a blog post in 2020. The novel in which she is the main character is being published by Instant Apostle later this month. (February 2021).

I received a copy through the post from the author, Ruth Leigh. I read it almost immediately, finishing it the day after I received it. It made me laugh, but there are serious issues addressed amidst the humour. The hashtags were fun, especially the oxymoron #planningforspontaneity. It ended with a lot of loose ends. I’ll have to be patient waiting for the sequel to this debut novel.

Readers, who enjoy books by Anna Bell, Sophie Kinsella and/or Stephanie Butland will probably like the diary of Isabella M Smugge.

Ruth Leigh has written a blog post about how she came to write a novel.

My other book reviews may be found here and here.