The last few weeks have flown by in a whirl of activity, if I wasn't driving to Heathrow or London or varying points of Suffolk, I have been glued to the TV and watching the Olympics and leaping up and down and shrieking with excitement. All over now, Games finished, daughter back to Australia and then back spasm, excruciating pain and flat on my back for three days. In between all this I have managed to get through several books, though four of them have been since Sunday when my back went and was forced to lie still and do nothing.
So doing a round up else I am going to get miles behind.
The Folly of French Kissing by Carla McKay. Light hearted chick litty book, easy read and most enjoyable. Story line of ex-pats being resented at their take over of a small French village and an anti-British campaign by the locals. Read this and thought that this was familiar and that I had read a story about this some years ago in the Daily Mail and as the book wore on became even more certain of this. Checked and found that the author was a former fiction editor of said paper so obviously this story stayed in her mind. All is not idyllic in the Languedoc and the cast of characters have their reasons for being there, each individual story revealed. Teacher and poet Judith Hay fleeing a scandal in the school where she used to teach, a sacked journalist on the look out for a good story, a lecherous author with a taste for young girls and a downtrodden wife. Immensely readable and kept me interested and engaged all the way through. Felt it galloped a bit towards the conclusion with everything wrapped up a bit quickly, but then a punch in the stomach on the last page. Pacy narrative and interesting characters and look forward to more by this author.
Habits of the House - Fay Weldon. Have tried various works by this author but have not been able to get on with her very well. Not sure why. This is apparently the first book in the Love and Inheritance Trilogy and takes us inside the lives of an aristocratic housesehold in the last three months of the nineteenth century. Earl of Dilberne has lost most of his money in a risky investment in a South African goldmine and the family are close to ruin so they decide to do what all good aristocratic families do when faced with penury - they hunt out an heiress. In this case Minnie O'Brien from Chicago, a daughter of a stock yard baron and with a vulgar mother and dubious past. But needs must...
Of course the story of an American heiress marrying into the British aristocracy is not new but always fun and I love stories set in this time. However, I found after a very short while that my attention wandered and I started skipping pages at a time as, quite frankly, found the story very boring indeed. Don't ask me why - I could not tell you and am aware that Fay Weldon is a widely read and respected author but I feel I may have to give up on her as I have tried, really I have but cannot get on with her at all. Also, I rather dislike a book with a sticker on the front cover telling me 'If you liked Downton Abbey you will like this'. Well I did and I don't.
Then to finish this round up a simply lovely little book, Caroline by Cornelius Medvei. Very early in my blogging days I reviewed a book by this author called Mr Thundermug, link here, a quirky rather odd and sad little book. I knew nothing about the author other than he studied modern languages at Oxford and lives in London. Here is a second by Medvei, some years after his first. Mr Shaw meets Caroline on his summer holiday and she turns his life upside down. They met and looked at each other across a sagging farm gate: "I suppose this was the moment when the whole strange affair began; the moment so well documented in classical poetry and TV soaps.....when two strangers come face to face; the heart thumps, an overpowering force shakes them...." It is the meeting of two minds. Only problem is Caroline is a donkey.
To the bemusement of his wife and son (the story is told from his son's viewpoint) when the family returns to the city Caroline comes with them. She plays chess, she goes to work at Mr Shaw's office and charms his colleagues. Caroline also re-awakens in Mr Shaw an appetite for life he thought he had lost. But the idyll cannot last and after months of close companionship and happiness it ends in tears. One morning Mr Shaw comes to say good morning to Caroline and finds she has opened her stable door and gone. Where did she go? My feeling is that bringing happiness to Mr Shaw and his family, she is now off to work her magic elsewhere. A bit like Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee - once they are not needed they have to leave.
Loved this little book and read it straight through. This is the second novel, or rather novella, that this author has written with an animal as the main character and the affect they have on the humans around them. Sheer delight from start to finish, amusing, sad and wonderfully written, with great economy of style. I do hope that Mr Medvei does not leave it another six years before he delights us again.
Another round up tomorrow, hopefully.