What I read in August 2020 (Part 4)

This post includes two book reviews.
The Testaments coverOn my first visit to the library since lockdown I returned the first two books I reviewed here  and borrowed two more books. (I was wearing the mask I wrote about here.)

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is a prize-winning novel published in 2019. The hardback edition has its own ribbon bookmark. Although the content is disturbing I found it fascinating. I had not realised that it was written as a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which I have not yet read. The unusual structure of the novel (narrated by three different women – a hologram and two witnesses) is not explained until the end.

The Bertie Project cover

The Bertie Project by Alexander McCall Smith is from the Scotland Street series. I borrowed it as light relief from the other book. It made me laugh out loud. My loyal readers will be aware that I enjoy reading books by Alexander McCall Smith. My other reviews of his books, which I have read may be found here.

For an index to all the books I have reviewed online please click here.

2

What I read in October 2017

Books I finished reading in October

Books I finished reading in October

Seaside Pleasures by Ann Lingard was recommended to me on Twitter by the author after I reviewed her earlier novel The Fiddler’s Leg. The reason she gave was that it included a scene from Allonby beach, where hubby and I had joined one of her walks at low tide. It happened that I found the book in a small collection of second-hand books for sale.

It is written from the points of view of four very different characters – one from an earlier time. The author’s note explains where the story deviates from historical facts.

All the characters are changed in some way through their experiences as told in the story. There is much background information about scientific research into parasites of molluscs. The beliefs of some of the characters were important to the plot. Art and music also featured. I was pleased to recognise most of the music, which was mentioned by name. (This would not be the case with modern pop music!)

There is much to think about in this book. I could only read a few chapters at a time before I needed a break. (I started reading it in September.)

It is a well-researched, well-planned and well-written novel.

 

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood was another book I found second-hand. I picked it because I had not read anything by this well-known author. It is a book about going back to a childhood home as an adult. This particular home was in a wild area of Canada. At one point I wondered whether the story was going to become as uncivilised as The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, which I had to study at school. One recurrent theme was birth control, which was uppermost in many people’s minds in the early 1970s, when this book was first published. At times I found it difficult to distinguish between what was going on in the protagonist’s mind and what was actually happening in her life. A good book.

 

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking was one of the non-fiction books I began reading earlier and finished reading in October. The background to why I read this and the review perhaps require a post to themselves. Watch this space!

 

The Choir by Joanna Trollope was a second-hand book from a different source. I have read some of Joanna Trollope’s books in the past. I am unsure whether this was one I had read or not. It is about politics and family life around a cathedral choir. The story is good with all the characters developing through the circumstances of their lives. It was an appropriate book for me to read this month as I had been to sing in a Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) choral event at a cathedral one Saturday. That helped set the scene.

 

The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd by James Rebanks was on display in the public library. I have followed the author on Twitter from the time before he revealed his name (on the publication of The Shepherd’s Life). The book I borrowed uses his photos and a sparse amount of text. I read more than half of it, while I waited for an appointment. Later I reread most of it to study the photos and avoid skimming through the text. It is a beautiful book, which describes a way of life unknown to many people in cities. I live within sight of fields of sheep (including herdwicks), although I have no experience of farming.

 

Go set a watchman by Harper Lee is another book I found at the library. I did not read it immediately after publication, when there was a lot of discussion about its merits and demerits. I have read the other novel by Harper Lee, To kill a mockingbird, twice. I read it in my youth and reread it more recently. I didn’t find that an easy book to read and remember the storyline. By contrast, I found Go set a watchman intriguing, easy to read and full of humour (it made me laugh) and wisdom. Strangely the theme of a fairly young adult woman returning to her childhood home from an urban environment is the background to this book as in Surfacing (above).

 

Out of Silence by Annie Try is the third published novel by this author. It is the second story featuring the psychologist, Dr Mike Lewis. I have bought all three books. I reviewed the others here and here. I spent Sunday afternoon and early evening reading Out of Silence from cover to cover as I didn’t want to put it down. Of all the books I have read this month, this was the one which affected my emotions the most. I found it impossible to remain detached from the characters. Tears streamed down my face at two points in the story. I prefer not to read the back cover or any reviews before I read a book, so that I do not have any preconceived ideas about it. If you want to find out more before you read it (and I recommend that you do read it!) the information is available elsewhere. Annie Try’s style is very readable. The book is set in London. I have been to some of the places mentioned in it and travelled on one of the bus routes!

Links to the books: Seaside Pleasures by Ann LingardSurfacing by Margaret AtwoodThe Choir by Joanna Trollope, The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd by James Rebanks,Go set a watchman by Harper LeeOut of Silence by Annie Try