I have struggled this year with both blogging and writing. Symptomatic of the fact perhaps that I have found this year to be a bit like trying to navigate a swimming pool filled with glue and I am still trying to get from the shallow end to the middle but keep getting drawn back. Reading though has been my daily stress buster so I might not have been the world’s best blogger in 2015 but my record in book reading is greater than this time in 2014.
So a brief review of books that I read in March.
1. A War of Flowers by Jane Thynne
This book was lent to me by a friend from my Scottish Tourist Board days and is the third in the series. It is about Clara a British/German (part Jewish) actress who is living in Berlin in the 1930’s. As an actress and with a British father who is a Nazi sympathiser she is able to meet the elite of Nazi society and does so while being a spy for Britain. Each book has been a great insight into the world of Nazi elite wives and this one shows life as seen through Hitler’s Girl friend Eva Braun. Like the others I found it a fascinating fictional (but I suspect fairly accurate) look at life for them whilst also getting across how brutal life was for ordinary Germans at the time.
2. A Place for Us by Harriet Evans
Read this book while I was at Stobo Castle for a indulgent overnight stay. Wanted a light hearted read and this fitted the bill. It’s not a taxing read its a used formula about the secrets, love and hate of family life but it fitted the bill of being easy to read and enjoyable.
3. The Spring of Kasper Meir by Ben Ferguson
This book is set in post 2WW Berlin which I haven’t read much of. It is a very black book holding no punches at how life was for Berliners in the period where the Russians and the West were fighting over the city and there was no food to be found. The main character is gay and has suffered for that over the Nazi era and war and although often unlikeable his love for his dying father and his increased care for a girl he encounters who blackmails him makes the book compelling and makes you want to read on.
4. The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
Found this book a difficult read though not as difficult as the book below. About a couple who lose their daughter when the father takes her to the supermarket and at the till the girl suddenly disappears. The grief and story is mainly taken from the Father’s point of view and the narrative is good. But as a mother I found the story line hard to read and was not sure in the same circumstance if I would have coped with the grief in the same way and I found the ending too much like tying up lose ends when the ending is the same as the beginning a child has been lost.
5. The girl in the read coat by Kate Hamer
This book was being hailed as one of the books to read for 2015. So I read it and have to say hated the book. Again it is about a missing child. This time we see the story from both the missing child’s point of view and the mother’s. That in itself is painful but the book is also about how religion can be used for evil which I am no fool I know it is but that does not make it easy to read. Again the ending was tying up lose ends but again given what had taken place it was impossible to think that there was a happy ending only a holding of your own children close and praying that this does not happen to you.
6. A perfect heritage by Penny Vincenzi
One of my guilty secrets is Penny I have read all of her books. The last two I didn’t enjoy as much but the majority of them I have loved and happily this one was in this category. About a failing cosmetics company managed by the female founder whose word is law and her children and staff suffer for this as does the company as what suited the company in post 2WW does not work now. The company is bought over by financiers who bring in a female chief executive also used to getting her own way. I enjoyed the conflict between the two women and the men who get in the way. It was one of those books that I enjoyed from the first page to the last.
7. Rise by Karen Campbell
Karen came along to the book shop at Main Street St Boswells which gave me the perfect excuse to read her new novel. I just loved her book “This is where I am.” Rise is different in location set in rural Argyllshire but themes remain the same such as the sense of needing to belong, the human urge to run when we face challenges and the fact that although we do so we cannot run away from problems and our greatest issues until we meet them head on. “This is where I am” still remains my favourite as it was one of the best books I have read giving me an insight into the world of the refugee and making me think. But this is also a good read and by the end you are turning the pages to find out if the main character makes it to the end of the book.
8. The Ship Brides by Jojo Moyes
Love this author this is not my favourite of her book but I did enjoy it . It is about Australian war brides and their journey over to the UK after the 2WW like all her books she has a way of getting beneath the skin of all of her characters so that even in the less likeable ones you get to see the core of why they are the way they are and compels you to read on.
9. Archie’s War by Margi McAllister
A book that my son picked for me to read him. About a wee boy at the start of the 1WW who with his family work for a landed family very like Downtown Abbey. The boy in particular has a close relationship to the youngest son of the landed family Ted and his dog Archie. Sir Ted goes off to war and the story is about the outcome of this for the boy left behind. I enjoyed this book it set the tone right for reading to an 11 year old in that it didn’t sugar coat the 1WW and showed how awful it was without spelling it out but by telling the story in words suitable for a child of that age. By telling the story through a boy of the same age it gave an insight into how life was at that time. Though said son was not impressed by his Mum’s tears at the end of the book. But we both learnt something of the 1WW and it gave us the opportunity to discuss it. As a history graduate I know you only get history if it inspires your imagination and my dad did that for me as I was growing up and I hope by reading books like this to both my children I too can show them that history is not boring but a lesson for us all that we continually fail to learn.